The underlying technologies in mobile app development have significantly changed and it has affected the ways in which business objectives are achieved. Furthermore, organizational changes in accessibility and productivity have led to new ways for users to transact business online, interact, and consume data. Earlier mobile apps were created as software packages where the apps were destined to perform limited functions. But not anymore.
With the advent of a new technological era and the growth of social media, mobile apps are required to perform actions based on social preferences, geo-location, and usability, in order to render a superior user experience. And all this is only possible through the intelligent use of APIs.
What exactly are APIs?
API stands for Application Programming Interface. The concept refers to a set of protocols, subroutines, and tools for building applications. APIs are available in different forms like software libraries, operating systems or web-based systems. However, in the world of app development, APIs generally refer to the set of requirements that rule how a mobile app can communicate and share the data with another app or web service.
APIs are not new. They have always been used to transfer data between programs. In mobile app development, APIs make it possible to exchange data with web services like Google Maps, Facebook or other web services and take advantages of their popularity and offerings. For example, many game apps allow you to post your score or achievements on your Facebook page, which is a good example of intelligent use of APIs (Facebook APIs to be particular). There are several other APIs used today such as payment APIs, chat APIs, location and tracking APIs, and analytics APIs.
When you’re part of a mobile app development company, it is hard not to bump into some references of APIs and SDK at different stages of the development process. For those who don’t know, APIs are the foundational elements of mobile app development and are essential so as to get massive volumes of enterprise data into the usable framework of mobile apps.
What is a SDK?
SDK stands for Software Development Kit and alludes to a typical set of software creation tools that allows you to create an application for a specific mobile platform and software framework. Both SDK and API are inter-related. In technical terminology, an SDK means a complete set of APIs that allow you to perform any action that is needed to create an application. In relation to SDK, API indicates a series of methods that are fit for a specific purpose.
Why are APIs becoming important?
APIs are increasingly becoming more and more important in mobile app development as they dictate the way app developers develop their apps and integrate popular web services into them without much difficulty. Users tend to benefit from the use of web services, and for developers, it comes with a cut in costs and it also increases the efficiency. Today, we have reached a scenario where users want to seek different services and applications on the fly to perform a variety of transactions. APIs are the key to making this a reality. Mobile app development services have evolved into a higher level with APIs.
Here are some of the advantages of using APIs.
APIs can be great time savers, as it puts an end to the need of coding the entire thing to make it work. APIs are readily available from leading web services. For example, mobile game developers can use the readily available Google Drive API or DropBox API in their gaming apps and help the user save the game session into a cloud-based storage which can be retrieved anytime.
You will find many apps that allow users to use Google or Facebook user data so as to sign in without creating a proper user. This is a perfect example of convenience, as the user is not required to key in details in a small screen in order to create a username. This sign-in feature relies on Google or Facebook APIs to work.
Offer new functions without coding from scratch
There are many mobile apps that intelligently use the existing web API services to offer something unique to the user. For example, Yelp is a popular mobile app that allows you to search for the best restaurants in town based on reviews and recommendations from Yelp users. After helping you find the best choice, Yelp uses the Google Maps API in Android to help you locate the restaurant on the map. In the iPhone version, the Yelp mobile app uses Apple Maps API to locate the restaurant. Thus, Yelp uses the APIs intelligently with the purpose of providing a superior user experience to the user.
The majority of mobile apps allow you to share information on various social media platforms like Facebook, Google Plus, Twitter, Instagram, Whatsapp and many other platforms. APIs are used for various purposes like sharing articles, posting comments and reviews, without leaving the app.
Today, our lives revolve around social networks. We use Twitter to follow celebrities or trends, scan Facebook feeds to get updates from family and friends, pin the home-improvement ideas or latest fashion trends on Pinterest, or upload our life’s most memorable moments on Instagram. Our thirst for engagement is fueled by our desire to stay connected to trends, brands, and people. If engagement is fueled by people, APIs are the fossil fuels that make it happen. Without APIs, none of the engagement options would be able to see the light of the day, and that’s the reason why APIs have become a critical business growth tool that cannot be ignored.
How are APIs integrated into mobile apps?
API refers to a way of accessing information from the system. The integration of APIs takes into account several factors like the protocol of the platform or the destination system and connectors that support the API. In the API integration space, there is no such thing as pre-packaged and the integration between two systems is performed between multiple access points. Though both systems are integrated in some way, they are not coupled together. The API integration application which is responsible for point to point integration for the exchange of data, lives outsides both systems. At any point in time, it is easy to modify the integration application without affecting the performance, stability, and security of both platforms and applications. When you mention a connector in the line of API integration, it always makes reference to the connector in integration application. The integration application is nothing but the process of encoding of business processes, logic, and mappings to enable a particular solution.
The Way Forward - Enterprise use case of APIs
It is not only general mobile apps that benefit from the use of APIs. Take a look at enterprise mobile apps and you will understand that APIs have a bigger role to play in this domain.Today, a large number of business functions need internal data to be delivered beyond the Internet firewall and back to the repository, and this need to be done securely.
With the help of APIs, it is possible for mobile app development companies to combine assets and integrate interaction channels from different sources so as to deliver a context-driven, data-driven transactional experience. As opposed to simple executable functions in mobile apps which have limited use in enterprise mobility, the use of APIs grants maximum flexibility to solve a complex set of criteria (which may be derived from internal and external sources). Besides, APIs also provide maximum flexibility in different log-on methods and transactional capabilities required by different applications. The APIs are so flexible in nature that if you know what needs to be delivered and know it can be delivered through a mobile device, then APIs come across as a perfect data broker for exchanging data with users.
Many organizations are sitting on terabytes of data generated by different applications. Without APIs, the data potential remains unutilized, wasting millions of dollars which can be otherwise used for analytics and delivery of specific functions to the target audience. In whatever form the data is stored; it can be always converted into APIs and put to good use. For example, data repositories, backend applications, social streams and content management can be made available as APIs.
Businesses can hugely benefit by using Web APIs to make their products and services more popular and to build a loyal fan base. With the increasing need to integrate web APIs and share data, a smart mobile API strategy can play a bigger role in the success of the mobile app. The changing technology landscape is pushing mobile apps to become smarter by using the available information through all channels and present a complete picture rather than relying on its own outdated information database. The success of your mobile app will depend on how correctly it uses APIs to deliver on your goals .These are some of the reasons that make APIs important in the app development landscape.
Always remember that mobile apps are created to perform basic functions. They communicate, interact and deliver. But think about what purpose they will serve if they don’t have anything worth to communicate, transact or deliver. Businesses across the world are already sitting on piles of intellectual property that can be put to good use in form of APIs. The enterprise mobility structure is already processing data in some way. The use of APIs provides you with a window to extend the usability of data beyond traditional boundaries. Mobile app developers and business communities know that the future and success of mobile apps will be bleak without APIs, and hence the growing importance of APIs in mobile app development.
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